60s Popeye: Popeye and the Magic Hat; yes, this is finally the one where Popeye’s a giraffe


We come to the finish of this little run of baffling Jack Kinney-produced cartoons. With a story by Osmond Evans (whose only story credit before this was Popeye the Fireman, though he has animation direction credits) and animation direction by Ken Hultgren, this 1960 short takes us on a tour of moments that raise the question, “Huh?” Here is Popeye and the Magic Hat.

So there’s a line here where Olive Oyl says of stage magician Brutus that she thinks he’s a big fake. This comes after she’s gone to see his show. He’s produced fireworks, a stream of water, several brass instruments, and petunias which he gave her. Brutus has taken Popeye as a volunteer. Brutus has made Popeye’s clothes jump off his body, then back on, then turn into a baby’s outfit, then a caveman’s, then a clown’s, then a ballerina’s, and then into a matronly gown. And then had a Jeep — Eugene, I assume — appear, crawling all over Popeye. Then had an apple appear on Popeye’s head. Then made Popeye’s legs disappear, along the way to making all Popeye’s body vanish, right out there on stage. And then gave him a body that would be big for Aunt Eppie Hogg over in Toonerville Trolley.

What sensible reason does Olive Oyl have for calling Brutus a “fake”? What would constitute “real” magic?

On stage, Olive Oyl is transformed into a seal from the neck down. She looks startled. Popeye leans in from behind the curtain looking aghast.
Is this one of the ordinary risks you assume by attending the show that they warn you about on the ticket to get into the studio? Olive Oyl in the seal form wears this nice teal scarf that I had mistaken as an accessory she was wearing as a human. She wasn’t, so I’m curious why it so evoked Olive Oyl to me. Maybe the color was enough like that blouse she wore in some of the 1940s shorts.

I focus on this as representative of this short’s baffling nature. The rough outline makes sense and has been done before. More than one time. (With variants.) The specifics are weird. Why does Olive Oyl call Brutus a fake after that? Why does Popeye say something like “Dreamy Squeamy, [ Brutus ] gives me the popcorn!” Why is Eugene the Jeep hanging around Brutus? Is he actually doing the magic and Brutus only does the patter? How much of this short is made up of Brutus waving his magic wand down and up once? I like Brutus responding to Olive Oyl’s cry of “fake” by turning her flowers into fish. Why does he then turn her into a seal? And then do a stunt of bouncing 10- and 16- and really-heavy weights off her nose and at Popeye?

And then we get a string of transformation jokes. Popeye asks if Brutus is trying to make a monkey out of him, because he hasn’t learned from past cartoons like this. And then he’s a monkey for a bit. Brutus turns them back to normal. Then turns Popeye into a giraffe and Olive Oyl into a flamingo, because of reasons he doesn’t share with us. Popeye grabs the wand, creates a Delux [sic] Giant Size can of spinach and turns everything back to normal. Brutus flees into his hat, and Popeye and Olive Oyl follow. The resulting fight decimates Liddsville, but saves the animation budget because a hat jumping around is easy to animate. (There is a lot this short that’s easy to animate. The characters mostly stand still on a blank background, alone, while looking at the opposite corner.) And then the hat opens out wide and everybody pops up, a happy performing family talking about how “you were both adorable!”

Olive Oyl, holding her hands together, looks up at Popeye, who's been transformed into a giraffe and stands so tall that nearly his whole neck is out of frame. The giraffe wears an adapted version of Popeye's shirt.
“Popeye! You come down here this minute and explain why your shirt changed to fit you as a giraffe but your pants just disappeared!”

So … uh … what? What just happened and why? Was this all a stunt, with Popeye and Olive Oyl confederates making it look for the TV audience like they were fighting? And now breaking the scene to let everyone know it’s all right? Having written that out, I admit, I can read that as clever. That Popeye and his cast are performing the roles of antagonists in hundreds of these little scenes. There’s a reason his comic strip was named Thimble Theatre.

There are thrills in looking hard at these 60s cartoons rather than, like, the Fleischer cartoons that everybody loves. One is how weird the cartoons could get. There wasn’t the time and money (and maybe talent) available to make clear stories well-animated. This can produce a wild, bracing freedom. Until it happened I had no idea this cartoon would involve Olive Oyl turned into a performing seal. That surprise is a delight and I’ll take that, if the cost is my being sure why these things happen in this order.

On stage, Popeye is startled to find he's wearing a blue clown outfit with yellow polka dots, including a big pointed cap and humongous clown shoes.
Hey, it’s Popeye as the host of a 1960 kiddie cartoon presenting Popeye cartoons! Which goes along with the idea that all this action is “really” a show the gang is putting on for the audience within the cartoon and also the one at home. It’s probably a coincidence.

Seeing Popeye as a monkey and Olive Oyl as a flamingo got me wondering. So far as I know there hasn’t been a short that cast the Popeye gang as animal versions of themselves. (I’ve forgotten almost all the Hanna-Barbera series, but King Features has got some of it on their YouTube channel. And I’ve seen none of Popeye And Son.) It could freshen up a stock plot if you have new-looking animation and can toss in a bunch of animal jokes among the regular dialogue. I suppose it would cost too much, redesigning the characters and having to replace all the stock animation cycles for the one short. Could be it’s somewhere in the comic books, or should be. I’m interested in seeing adventures of Popeye the Monkey and Olive Oyl the Flamingo.

Meanwhile At The Carousel-Carving Shop In Like 1920


A giraffe carousel figure. It's got a really camel-ish head.
Exhibit at the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio, which is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area.

“They want a giraffe?” said the carver, sometime in 1920. “What the dickety-heck is a giraffe? Gimme the dictionary … uhm … `giraffe. African animal. Another name for cameleopard’. OK. I can do a camel leopard. No, Carl, I’m not gonna waste time taking a trip to the zoo. I gotta start carving!”


(This space left open for other people with their own caption ideas.)


Did I mention I had some more mathematically-themed comic strips put up over on my other blog? I had some more mathematically-themed comic strips put up over on my other blog. Make sure I remind you that I had some more mathematically-themed comic strips put up over on my other blog. We’ll both say something about it.

Why This Mouse Situation Doesn’t Need Controlling


We got a flyer offering to solve our mouse problem, and I think it’s gone and misfired in a couple ways. First, it starts by saying, “It’s cold outside. It’s warm in your house. The mice want in.” When you lay out the mice’s case like that, it’s hard to say they’re wrong. It’s one thing to be annoyed at mice if they’re up to mischievous purposes, sneaking in to place long-distance telephone calls or to hypnotize the dog, but if all they want is not to be cold, well, haven’t the mice got a point? We don’t even have a dog.

The next thing is they include a picture of an absolutely adorable mouse standing up and wearing a little Santa Claus hat. How could you turn away a mouse that just wants to be warm, but is so interested in impressing on you that she’s not a savage and is eager to participate in decorations for the holiday? Just look at the picture of the flyer, if I’m not too lazy to put it up. If I am too lazy then just imagine an absolutely adorable mouse sitting up and wearing a little Santa Claus hat.

The mouse is adorably wearing a little Santa cap, and the text points out it's cold outside, warm inside, and that mice want in.
Apparently I was not quite lazy enough. I apologize for the inconvenience.

If you told your co-workers that your house was infested with mice that put on little Santa hats they’d tell you how lucky you are to have such a precious breed of mouse prowling around. They’d be envious and people would come from miles around to see, like if you were one of those crazy houses that puts up enough lights to redirect commercial traffic, only with much less setup and take-down time needed since all you have to do is launder the mice’s caps, and that’s probably only a small load in the washing machine. And I’m not promising that the Santa-hat-wearing mice would sing adorably squeaky renditions of Christmas carols, but I think it’s plausible. Just ask.

That is, if you can find a mouse like this one, because I’m not actually sure that is a mouse. I can’t be too sure in saying that isn’t an actual domestic-type mouse of the kind that sneaks into your house and decorates and probably writes letters to Santa about you, because roughly forty percent of all the species in the world are labelled “mouse” or “rat” with some set of qualifiers, like the “grasshopper mouse” or the “lesser Wolfson’s braying mouse bat” or the “middling brown-spotted Scandinavian tactical assault mouse”, and it’s entirely possible this is one of those species. But it’s also entirely possible that some species of giraffe are identified as, oh, “long-necked tiled plains mouse” too, so all I’m getting at is that I’m not sure this is the kind of mouse you get trying to sneak into houses around here. I’m almost positive if giraffes were trying to sneak into houses I’d have noticed something, what with my bedroom being on the second floor, so I’d be able to look them in the eye.

I wanted to get that cleared up but it’s hard asking people about mice when you’re on the Internet since everybody you know will hear “mouse” and warn you that you’re going to get the hanta virus, which causes you to feel perfectly normal for up to three years after seeing or thinking about a mouse and then suddenly you explode and dissipate into a fine, peppermint-scented mist. I got warnings just for touching the picture of a mouse on the flyer, and one guy I know from Binghamton (he’s in Seattle now) came over to wrestle it out of my hand, until he realized that meant he had to touch it.

So I figured the best way to get the species of the adorable critter straightened out was to go to the mouse colony out in the garage, where we don’t mind them being at all, and ask them. Unfortunately they’re in a bit of a snit because most of them set up shop in the wood pile, and I took some in for a fire the other day. Don’t worry, we have a fireplace, and every winter we keep meaning to use it to build a lovely fire and then forget to do until it’s April, but we’re still early enough in the season we haven’t remembered to forget it yet. When I took some wood off their nesting spot they complained “This is totally bogus, man” and scurried off growling about how they’ve been paying rent. They’re still upset, so I can’t say much on that front except that apparently in the slang of garage mice it’s still maybe 1992 at the latest? Go figure.

Anyway, they didn’t seem to be dressing for the holiday.

Police Blotter: Traffic Incident


September 12. Police summoned to a traffic incident at the intersection of Yarrow Lane and Levi Mortin Street. Examined collision between giraffe with improper license plates and illegally oversized wheelbarrow filled with rubber balls. Both operators ticketed for conspiring to appear in an unnecessarily delayed police blotter item. Wheelbarrow operator also ticketed for having only a confident attitude as insurance card.

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